Review - Day 1 - 1st Test - SL vs IND.

India is back to cricket's ancestral format after a spree of limited-overs tournaments since April. Irrespective of Sri Lanka's current form and rankings, it is generally difficult to play against them on their home soil. Surprises tend to happen on the island. The last time a No. 1 ranked team (Australia) played test cricket in Sri Lanka, they were whitewashed 3-0.
Even before the start of the series, the score was levelled at 1-1 in terms of players lost to injuries for the first test. Sri Lanka had to take field without their newly-appointed captain, Dinesh Chandimal. On the other hand, the visitors were without the services of their opener, Lokesh Rahul, who is down with viral fever. However unfortunate it may sound, Rahul's fever solved the confusion regarding India's opening pair. Abhinav Mukund and Shikhar Dhawan were set to open.
India's captain, Virat Kohli, won the toss and elected to bat. In a move that solved another selection conundrum, Hardik Pandya was preferred ahead of Rohit Sharma. In what is his debut test, he became the 289th cricketer to represent India in test cricket.
Shikhar Dhawan was playing a test match after more than nine months. It seems as if playing after a hiatus brings the best out of him. He had to wait for a long time before his test debut, where he scored 187 (174) with the help of 33 fours and two sixes against Austrlia at Mohali. Another interval, and he returns with an innings, which could well be a match-winning one. Dhawan ended up scoring 190 (168) with the help of 31 fours. It was not only his fifth test century but also his highest test score. A strike rate of 113.09 further speaks about his domination on the Sri Lankan bowlers.

Shikhar Dhawan was at the top of his game.
Sri Lanka's stand-in captain, Rangana Herath, played his cards right from the beginning. Citing the two left-handed batsmen in the middle, spin in the form of Dilruwan Perera was introduced as early as in the sixth over.
Abhinav Mukund (12) was the first Indian batsman to fall as he edged a Nuwan Pradeep delivery to Niroshan Dickwella in the eighth over. Bowling from round the wicket, Pradeep angled the ball in and it straightened enough off the seam to induce an edge. Mukund was recalled into the team during the Australia series earlier this year. Been given the chance to prove his mettle in the second test at Bengaluru, he returned with scores of 0 and 16. With Rahul and Murali Vijay around, he will be under certain amount of pressure to register a substantial score in order to board the plain to South Africa.
Dhawan and Cheteshwar Pujara stitched a 253-run partnership to nourish the Indian innings. By the lunch interval, Dhawan had completed his half-century and India had scored 115-1 in 27 overs. Dhawan was given a reprieve in the 14th over by Asela Gunaratne, who, while fielding at second slip, shelved a catch off Lahiru Kumura's bowling. Adding to Gunaratne's woes was the injury caused by the dropped chance, which has sidelined him from the match. Injury score update: Sri Lanka 2 - 1 India.
Pujara batted in his natural style. However, he lost the race to Dhawan, who completed his century (in 110 balls) before the former could complete his half-century. A couple of overs later, Pujara achieved the feat as well. On the stroke of tea, Dhawan probably got carried away as he mis-timed a shot to mid-off to become Pradeep's second victim. He scored more than 100 runs in the second session.
Pradeep continued his excellence as he managed to dismiss the Indian captain for 3 in the second over after tea. Ajinkya Rahane was the next man to walk in. He provided able support to Pujara as the duo was unbeaten at stumps. Pujara completed his 12th test century in the 67th over. It was another of his trademark knocks, where he respected the good deliveries and severely punished the bad ones. At stumps, he had scored 144* (247) with the help of 12 fours. Rahane will resume his innings on 39* tomorrow morning. Scoring at a run rate of 4.43 runs per over, India scored 399-3 in 90 overs. With seven wickets in hand, a certain run-feast in on the cards.
For Sri Lanka, Pradeep, who missed the test match against Zimbabwe due to an injury, was the pick of the bowlers. Figures of 18-1-64-3 made him Sri Lanka's highest wicket-taker and the most economical bowler for the day. As the Indian batting card suggests, rest all the bowlers received a bash. Sri Lanka also missed the bowling services of Gunaratne. Already a batsman short, they would be counting on Herath, yet again, as he along with Pradeep have it in them to restrict the Indians.

Photo Credits - ESPN cricinfo.


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